Coming soon: a new school year

While watching TV passively last night, I came across a short feature on the impact of the spiraling oil prices on ordinary Filipinos. If there is something that reminds us of how things are inextricably connected in this world, it is oil prices - fluctuations in the world prices of crude oil reverberate across many facets of our lives: prices of commodities go up, transport groups demand fare increases, etc. But what caught my interest was that along the course of interviewing mothers who were doing their marketing at a wet market, the TV reporter stumbled on a related topic of interest. Most of those interviewed commented that they were tightening belts and going on a strict budget on account of the impending opening of classes. One particular harassed-looking mom noted "ngayon pa na malapit na ang pasukan."

My heart goes out to mothers like that - people who put a premium on the educational needs of their children. In this country, the opening of classes is always a major event. Although really quite unnecessary (and impractical) if we come to think about it, most parents do make it a point to make sure that their kids sport brand new uniforms and school bags complete with school supplies at the opening of classes; even if their old ones are still serviceable. I know this for a fact because my parents were like that too when we were kids. Perhaps because parents think it is one way to motivate kids to take education seriously?

Every school year, I would invariably end up with brand new school shoes (which where a pain to wear in the first few days and I always ended up with blisters), a new set of school uniforms, and school supplies (some of which were truly unnecessary really - I always ended up with rulers, crayons, watercolors, pencil cases, pencil sharpeners, protactors, etc., which I never get to use anyway and subsequently misplaced within the first few days of school). It never crossed my parents' mind to ask me if it was okay not to buy new ones, or which ones I needed to begin with - they somehow had this mindset that the opening of classes meant a new chapter in my school life that required all these new things. At least I never had to go through the superstitious rituals that others had to go through every year (like eating breakfast with shreds of paper from the pages of a dictionary on the first day of school). A friend of mine had to suffer that exotic menu once a year.

A friend of mine has this interesting theory related to this. He calls it the collective guilt complex of today's generation of parents. Because life is difficult, and perhaps because most parents work, they end up making up for their parental inadequacies by ensuring that they do not at least deprive their kids of whatever little luxuries they can give. Unfortunately, this has seemingly perpetuated a "materialistic" mentality among kids today.

It is a pity then that many traders take advantage of this societal trend. Parents are natural preys to the vagaries of market forces because what parent can resist the temptation to please their children? Thus, kids today have become exposed to consumerism at such an early age. Even school supplies have become designer items. I was aghast to find out for example how much an authentic Harry Potter school bag costs. As an offshoot, pirated goods have likewise sprouted; and this likewise exposes kids to the evils of piracy at an early age. Another example of how good intentions can warp values.

But it is always heartwarming to find that many parents still put a premium on education. Too bad most surveys indicate a downward trend on the actual literacy rate among Filipinos. Something is wrong somewhere and too bad good intentions are never enough to produce quality education. We seem to be a country of good parents but not of mentors (and I do not just mean school teachers, but parents as teachers as well).

And writing about this has reminded me how soon time flies indeed. It will already be May next week, and classes at the school where I teach begins May 22. Sigh. If there is any consolation to be had, it will be this: summer, and this infernal heat will soon be over. Obviously, summer is not my favorite season.


acidboy said…
public school education could and should go far, even with the limited budget the decs has, if only those involved would see the gravity of the situation. remember during erap's time they caught ben diokno and those book suppliers outside malacanang? and what about those history books that was chock full of errors, and yet decs officials were maligning the school administrator that went public about this, not the book publisher?

anyway, hell has a special place for these people. they are practically ruining these children's future for their own 30 pcs of silver. in the levels of evil in corruption heirarchy, masmabuti pa mga bir at pulis- they get money from those who have it. eto these people are toying with lives na. i hope to meet them in hell someday.
Anonymous said…
You are absolutely right Mr. A, and I think some people are taking advantage of this glaring example is school bags, if you check department stores and compare prices, you would noticed that school bags are more expensive than travelling bags that are more sturdy and have good quality than these one-year or less use school bags...
BongA said…
I completely agree with you guys. I wish people draw the line at educational stuff (well, medicines too but that is another blog). Educating the future generation is a collective responsibility of all Filipinos.

Bong A
Anonymous said…
I was smiling when I was reading this'cause just last Monday I enroled our youngest in 1st grade. After paying the fees (gosh darn it "naholdap na naman kami ni hubby! haha)they handed me the list of supplies for the schoolyear. I told my hubby: hah, it's a shorter list this time so we won't have to bring the kids to their annual "supplies outing", we might as well patronize the neighborhood supplier. He turned to me with a (mock)shocked expression saying "Of course not!" You see we are the parents you were describing. Yearly we would let the kids loose at the Nat'l Bookstore with their individual lists, they'd each grab a basket and would choose the fanciest notebooks, sharpeners, rulers etc etc. Sometimes we would make a plea: Could we choose the regular brands please, without the latest cartoon character on the cover or the one with paper which is less white? And they would look at us with that abandoned-puppy-look and my husband's heart will melt. I was the stricter stringent parent but more often than not would also give in. How could you, my husband would say with that abandoned puppy look also, when this is for school? Since at any one time we'd be buying for 4 kids, the receipt would be a kilometer long (I'm wondering now why we haven't been made an NBS stockholder!). I was releived when the 2 eldest went to college and were too embarassed to come with us in all shopping trips, but still they would give us the list, tho' shorter, with the notebook brand highlighted.
Yes, to both the guilt trip and the premium we give to education. Altho my kids would rarely dare to let unused supplies lying around or let me see them in the trash can or they would have an hour's lecture hi-lighting the fact that "when we were your age, your Dad and I would sew together unused pages of old notebooks and use them, we'd buy pad paper by "tingi" etc etc". But after the sermon I would be giggling to myself. Those were funny days when you think about them now, but back then we felt so kawawa, a feeling that lasts maybe a week then wala na, ok na kami. But hey, their dad and I turned out OK! That is the best example we show them. We were poor but that doesn't mean we'd grow up to be less honorable people. It's difficult to be the perfect parents but we should all congratulate ourselves for being the good mentors to our kids that we are. Especially in these difficult times. Thanks again, Bong, for this piece.
BongA said…
Mommy jo: thanks for the insights too. i was smiling too when i read your comment. parenthood is really complicated.

Anonymous said…
Why do the bags have to be so bloody huge in the first place! Why require bringing half a dozen notebooks and three pads of paper every day?! Now that I'm in college, I only have one (para sa math, hehehe). The cost of my little sister's school supplies now always exceed that of my books. I don't even bother bringing a bag to half of my current semester's units.

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